I presented at the 100 men who give a damn last week, a benevolent group of 100-plus gentlemen, who collectively donate roughly $10,000 every three months to a local charity.

I represented Ecology North hoping to sell them on the idea of finishing the Pop Up Park on 50th Street. Ecology North sees the site as a place of environmental renewal, hope, bridge building, reconciliation, outreach and community/family gatherings. We don’t have to let our inner city die as it does in most centres.

We lost, but I’m okay with that for now.

The award went to Yellowknife Food Rescue which supplies food to 18 organizations in Yellowknife for those in need. Some of the recipients such as the Women’s Center, the Salvation Army, and the Sobering Center say they might have trouble surviving without this contribution. As important as that, last year Food Rescue diverted 142,288 kilograms of edibles from the landfill. Considering that methane gas, created in part by decomposing food waste is a significant contributor to climate change, the contribution organizations such as Food Rescue make to the environmental movement is huge.

Before Food Rescue started in 2008, the majority of the expired and unsold food from local retailers here wound up at the dump where it was buried and allowed to rot producing methane gas. In the last 11 years, the few paid and now 50 volunteers at FR have kept 1,523,199 million kilograms of food from morphing into methane gas at the dump.

In addition to the three main retail outlets, donations come from the mines, expediters, individual donations and excess food from conferences and other large gatherings. This to me is community caring in action.

Long-time volunteer Marg Henderson recounts a time before the service started when a semi drove up from Edmonton without a reefer attached to properly cool the load. Because the truck had traveled so far without being properly cooled, the city had to dig a pit where this food, which was edible but could not be sold, was buried. Methane gas in the making.

For those who were here during the fires of 2014, it wasn’t just the carbon dioxide that forced us indoors and proved a threat to the health of infants, seniors and those with respiratory problems, it was the release of methane gas from the melting permafrost. Like something from a horror movie, it was choking all of us. That is but a taste of things to come if we do not make the necessary change in our lifestyle and eating patterns.

Before the Amazon rainforest started burning last summer, loggers had moved in cutting great swaths of forested land to convert what is considered the lungs of the earth to pasture for beef cattle. As we all know, cattle are also a main producer of methane gas which is another reason why it is so important to wean ourselves off red meat. It, too, is another food source contributing in a negative way to our air quality and of course our health, especially meat sourced from the massive factory farms in the south. If we are serious about reducing our steadily growing contributions to climate change, we must eat more plant based foods and divert all the excess food we can from the dump.

Food Rescue moves 96 per cent of the food it collects to the community, either directly in its original packaging or reconstituted into apple sauce or other purées. The four per cent considered spoiled goes to the compost. This means that the vast majority of the food ending up at the landfill now is coming from individual households.

That this edible food, which was once quietly trashed and trucked to the dump, is being used to meet the needs of the most vulnerable among us is an incredible social justice and humanitarian action. But it also works to reduce our environmental footprint, an amazing benefit most of us do not see.

Ecology North will continue to work towards improving the Pop Up Park and making it a place where the community can be proud of and gather. 

Incorporating the homeless and vulnerable populations who have embraced the space is important for Yellowknife as a whole, reconciliation and the environment.

But for now, I think this city can take pride in this amazing humanitarian and environmental food rescue service. 

It is acts such as these which go a long way toward bridging gaps and bringing out the best in all of us. Congratulations Food Rescue and keep up the good work.

Postscript: A community is only as strong as its weakest link.

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